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Public Investment Decisions

As I am headed to Vancouver for a couple of days later this week, I thought today’s post could start with a focus on a controversial transportation project, the Gateway Freeway “mega-project”. The City of New Westminster is smack in the middle of this project and public sentiment seems to be against the project, at least enough that council has voted against the project, wanting to take some control over what happens within their municipality, whether for regional transport or not.

“New Westminster is creating a new Master Transportation Plan this year, in an attempt to reduce our transportation emissions. Now is the time to take action on the climate crisis and create a more livable city by shifting resources to transit, cycling and walking.”

It would be ridiculous to start a billion-dollar highway through downtown New Westminster just as consultations start on the city’s new transportation plan. And the people of New West seem well prepared to prevent such an outcome.

via: Straight.com – Gateway Program’s blacktop politics pushed back in New Westminster

The Sydney Morning Herald recently reported on a series of studies that warned of planning for a high mobility, car-centric layout of cities. This problem is not specific to Australia, but it seems that some countries are considering the implications while others ignore the potential for peak oil issues.

”With Australian cities so clearly exposed to the effects of depleting global oil supplies, our urban planning should … turn its attention to mitigating oil vulnerability and adapting Australian cities to an oil-constrained world.”

Some cities are expected to record big increases in the number of vehicle kilometres travelled. In south-east Queensland, a 48 per cent increase by 2026 is forecast, a big factor in the state government’s decision to build the Gold Coast light rail network.

”Cities will be among the most significant areas where the social and economic impacts of declining global petroleum security will be experienced,” Dr Dodson writes.

”For metropolitan planners who are tasked with ensuring cities are resilient to future threats of all kinds, the mitigation of oil vulnerability should be a major planning concern.”

via SMH – Oil shortages could turn outer suburbs into slums

As an aside, back here in Castlegar, council could take a page from New West’s leaders who want to wait until a public consultation process is completed before commencing projects. Two recent cases come to mind:

  1. Council’s vote to demolish the Pioneer Arena prior to the referendum regarding the expansion of the Castlegar Recreation Complex.
  2. Council’s budgeting for the expansion of the water and sewer networks out to the airport lands prior to the completion of the Official Community Plan and Community Sustainability Plan, in which the initial public consultation showed opposition to the development of these lands.

It is likely that in the coming decades communities will have greater expenses for infrastructure and less money to pay for it. It is important that communities consider the long term impacts of their decision, like the state of Queensland in Australia, communities should be required to conduct an “oil dependence study” for all new developments, with the outcome being a set of requirements that may range from funding of public transport options, to the denial of approval for the development. At the least, governments should attempt to balance the wishes of the existing population and the opinion of conservative experts over the potential for future investment. This doesn’t preclude all investment in development, but ensures that the development is of lasting value to the community.

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

2 thoughts on “Public Investment Decisions

  1. Hey Mike,

    This is a busy week for me, but I would love to have a beer with you sometime when you are in Vancouver. I don’t suppose you are coming in for a meeting at Metro Vancouver?

  2. Hi Mike,

    I lived in Greater Vancouver from 1985, when it was a fairly pleasant city, until 2004, when, for me and my family it became ‘unaffordable’.

    For several years, those opposed to the ‘twinning’ of the Port Mann Bridge have asked, “Where are the cars supposed to go once they gets over the bridge and into the City proper?”

    I have never heard a satisfctory answer to that question.

    Raymond Koehler
    4363 Broadwater Road,
    Castlegar, BC V1N 4V7

    Voice Mail: 250.304.2157

    raymond(at) raymondkoehler.ca

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